Turkey is a nation that bridges, literally, West and East, the first nation to ignite the fire and hunger to start exploring an eastern country, just east of Istanbul, across the Bosphorus starts The East, a stark difference, in buildings, roads, culture and food, but the same hospitality and you should visit both sides of Istanbul.
We flew into Istanbul, on Turkish Airlines, with a TV camera on the bottom of the plane and you could see the ground underneath right from your seat on the monitor while flying, my first ever on an airplane with camera on the bottom of the plane, I traced Danube river right from my seat and little towns on it passing through different Balkan towns and country side. We spent 4 full days and 4 nights in Istanbul, and we think that was enough, covering and walking the entire town. Later we flew into Nevsehir in Central Anatolia to visit Cappadocia along with the Silk Road, where we spent about 3 days as well. Typically people add Izmir into the itinerary of Turkey as well, but we believe that Aegean Sea (A part of Mediterranean Sea between Greece and Turkey) is best sought from Greece including Santorini island, from where you can visit Izmir, Turkey.
THE ROUTES AND PLACES
The best way to see Istanbul is by waking, often it will become intense but you will enjoy it, especially during summer time. Istanbul also has a great network of metro-rail and tram and we used it a lot as well. The country has some unique architecture, food and monuments compared to other parts of Europe.
Stop – 1 Istanbul
Day-1 Walk on Ordu, Ataturk, Fevzi Pasa, etc.streets; take the tram and hop-on hop-off at different stations, eat some really good shawarma and doner kabab at the food stalls by the street, get acclimatized with the city culture, get a metro map, get a city map and plan your next 3 days sipping rich Turkish coffee at one of the famous coffee shops. We spent the first day planning our visits to the Sultanahmet district (all the historical sites), hired a local guide, also the city provides young college volunteers for free to discuss the monuments (not as a guide though!). Its fun to talk to them and find out the game plan for the next day. In the night, rather every night, we hung around Bosphorus, there are many food stalls and bars, great place to wind down the day and enjoy the beautiful views. Find a hotel close to the Sultanahmet district, so you can walk or take the tram to all destinations. Also, including all the historical monuments in one day could be very overwhelming.
Day-2 Start your day with Blue Mosque, the sun falling over the mosque, the flags flying high and enjoy the tranquility inside, afterwards head to Sultanahmet Square, eat at cafes on the square. Spend the afternoon at the Hagia Sofia. In the evening, head again to Bosphorus for some great Turkish food by the.
Day – 3 Topkapi Palace should be the main destination of the day, its a huge palace with lots to see and understand, there is lot to walk and they have some amazing collections of Ottoman rulers. Towards mid day take the ferry across the Bosphorus into east Istanbul to Galata Tower, a great view of west Istanbul during the dusk time sun setting with goldent light over the bridge, mosques and city lights. Eat near the Galata Tower and have some central Anatolia kababs, explore into old coffee houses and relax your evening here.
Day – 4 Final day, the shopping day, enjoy the Grand Bazar and Spice Market, do not get carried away by the artifacts and spices, make sure they are not made in China. The place to purchase Turkish artifacts and spices is near the Taksim Square and area around it. There is also some great antique shops on the way to Taksim Square. Retire back into Bosphorus, walk the shore and mesmerize the era from Byzantine, Romans, Ottomans and present day.
Stop – 2 Cappadocia, Central Anatolia, Goreme
Flew into Nevsehir from Istanbul in the morning, cheap flight back and forth, rented a car as there is lot to see near by and the roads are very safe and well listed. Spent 3 full days and 2 nights.
Goreme is the base town of Cappadocia, where you should stay in one of the cave hotels or cave rooms. Its a completely different experience and its well worth it, you
Day -1 We spent exploring the Silk Road Caravanserias, there are few around Goreme in about 20 miles radius. They are worth exploring to take a glimpse into historical start of globalization. Read Blog A day spent on Silk Road in central Anatolia, Turkey Also, make sure to eat Testi kabab and Adana style meat. Towards afternoon visit few towns near by – Uchisar, Underground cities, Avanos.
Day -2 Explore the Goreme National Park and Open Air Museum by hiking, take lots of water and lots of sunscreen. The days are going to be dry with mild heat and bright if you are there during summer. You will find some amazing earth formations, the ones that you are staying at the hotel. There are some really good tracks where you can find orchards and eat some fresh fruits along the way. In the evening, come back to the town square and submerge into some well deserved Hamam Bathe houses.
You can also do the balloon ride over Cappadocia, we did not opt for it but its also a great tourist attraction in Goreme; or wake up early in the morning to see the beautiful balloon in the sky surrounding the Fairy Chimney, its worth waking early and seeing the view.
Day -3 Was the day to relax, we roamed around the town and visited some artisan shops as well as took some pottery make classes in Avanos, a town on the banks of Red River. Here you will find artisan shop with some amazing miniature painting on pottery. In the evening, we flew back to Istanbul and waited for our flight back home to Texas.